Although the parks appeared sparse on Wednesday, individuals and families that were there basked in the warm, powdery sand beneath their toes, watched children splash in the kiddie pool, and fished off the jetties.
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PANAMA CITY — For Kristein Michaels, the sands Wednesday were as sugary white as before the pandemic and the waters as emerald at St. Andrews State Park.
“We’ve been stuck in the house for so long under quarantine. They said it’s okay and I pray to God it’s okay,” said Michaels, a 43-year-old essential worker from Panama City who said she works at a local nursing home. “Because I have to work at a nursing home to take care of the elderly, I’m taking a little mini-vacation for myself.”
She visited the park with her long time best friend Stephanie Hughes from Marianna. It was a girls’ day, she said, and a way to rejuvenate herself to prepare to head back into work tomorrow.
“I came to feel the water, feel the breeze so that I can return back to work relaxed and, again, ready to help our patients,” she said.
Following relaxing restrictions on restaurants and retailers, Gov. Ron DeSantis also announced last week the reopening of state parks on Monday. Although the parks appeared sparse on Wednesday, individuals and families that were there basked in the warm, powdery sand beneath their toes, watched children splash in the kiddie pool, and fished off the jetties.
St. Andrews re-opened Tuesday morning for active recreation only, which includes walking, jogging, swimming, and fishing. The park suspended services to Shell Island and, aside of restrooms, all other park facilities remain closed. The park opened with regular park fees and normal hours, 8 a.m. to sunset.
The state park’s website directs everyone to maintain safe social distances of 6-feet and group sizes of no more than 10 people.
“It’s been really difficult. It’s difficult to sit in the house every day when you’re used to going out and enjoying the beaches, and interact with people,” Hughes said, tying the ends of her cream colored crop top. “I am here today walking my dog and with (Kristein). I’d normally come on the weekends, but this is the first week (the park is open).”
As far as being cautious in regards to the spread of the coronavirus, Hughes said she is a little afraid.
“It’s not many people out here, anyway,” she said. “But, I’m a little afraid of getting it. So, I prayed before we came. And it’s just a good time and beautiful out here.”
It was not immediately clear how many people have visited the park since it reopened Tuesday. Officials said questions regarding COVID-19 are being handled by the state or managers, who were not immediately available Wednesday, though The News Herald is expecting a response via email within the next few days.
For more information about St. Andrews State Park, go online to FloridaStateParks.org.